Predators-Blackhawks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 30, 2011
Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators appear to be finding their stride, and the timing couldn't be better. The Predators look to win their third in a row Monday night when they open a difficult five-game road trip against the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks. Nashville (5-4-1), which trails the Blackhawks (6-2-2) by three points, arrives in Chicago after defeating Anaheim 3-0 on Saturday. Patric Hornqvist, Martin Erat and Shea Weber each scored, while Rinne stopped 20 shots to earn his 100th career victory. Rinne also established a franchise record with his 22nd shutout, breaking the mark held by Tomas Vokoun. He managed to set the record despite playing in 196 fewer games than Vokoun. "They are individual stats and records, but they are also team records. I'm really proud," Rinne said. "There have been great goalies in this organization. Being able to do these things is more than I ever imagined." Rinne, who has established a club record by starting each of the first 10 games this season, is 3-1-0 with a 1.26 goals-against average and two shutouts in the last four. Rinne, who was 2-1-0 with a 2.23 GAA against Chicago in 2010-11, finally didn't have to outwork his counterpart Saturday. The Predators outshot the Ducks 29-20 after being outshot in each of their first nine contests. "We're getting better," Weber said. "I still don't think we are as good as we can be. We haven't quite played a 60-minute game." Nashville will likely need to put together some stronger efforts to get good results on this trip. After visiting the United Center, where the Blackhawks are 4-0-2, the Predators head west to face four more 2011 playoff teams in Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. Nashville, which is 3-2-0 on the road, went 3-3-0 against the Blackhawks last season. Chicago, off to its best home start since opening 6-0-2 in 2008-09, could be putting extra importance on this game, as it plays 10 of its next 13 on the road. The Blackhawks are coming off Saturday's 5-2 win over Columbus after losing 3-0 to Carolina the night before. Viktor Stalberg scored his first two goals of the season just 1:58 apart early in the third period to snap a 2-all tie for Chicago, which also got goals from Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and rookie Marcus Kruger. "The biggest thing is taking two points and not losing two games in a row," Stalberg said. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville rested No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford for the second time this season Saturday and backup Ray Emery made 27 saves. The Blackhawks were also playing without Dan Carcillo, who sat out the first game of a two-game suspension for an illegal check on the Hurricanes' Joni Pitkanen. Crawford, who has allowed three or more goals in two of his last three starts after yielding two or fewer in each of his first five, went 2-1-1 with a 1.48 GAA and a shutout against the Predators last season. Bolland, tied with Marian Hossa for the team lead with five goals, had three goals and two assists against Nashville last season. The Blackhawks may not have to face Predators center Mike Fisher, who left Saturday's game with an upper-body injury. He has two goals and two assists in three games after missing the start of the season because of shoulder surgery.
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